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Wine may do more than taste good

Throughout the ages wine has been considered to hold healing qualities for a variety of ailments and diseases. Its use was so widespread and accepted that wine varietals were often categorized by their medicinal properties.

Jean-Baptiste Moreau, an 18th century French economist, believed wine was food and therefore considered it just as appropriate to spend money on wine as on other food items. Even during the temperance, some Prohibitionists made exceptions for the use of wine through continued recognition of its therapeutic or medicinal properties.

Generally alcohol levels were lower, as low as 6%-7%, and even into the 20th century wines usually carried a lower alcohol level than many today. However, the health benefits remain (hint: it’s in the grape skins), and moderation is the key.

In our modern world, science has been able to extract the various components of wines — antioxidents, polyphenols, resveratrol, etc. — and link them to numerous health advantages such as cardiovascular health, diabetes, better cholesterol, cancer, slowing mental decline, along with vitamins and minerals. Here in Southern Oregon we have the microclimates to produce healthful wines. Dry, full-bodied reds are the top contenders.

Pinot noir is considered the most healthful wine to drink. Pinot grapes are thin-skinned but have the highest levels of resveratrol. It also has lower sugar and fewer calories than other red wines. This wine is listed as one of the top “lifespan increasing” wines in the Blue Zones (blue zones.com).

Malbec is a thick-skinned grape containing high levels of antioxidants linked to both heart and immune health. Polyphenols provide both powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory results.

Cabernet sauvignon is the most planted grape in the world. This varietal contains the flavonoid catechin, which works to stimulate cellular health and reduce oxidative stress. It also contains a chemical that helps protect tooth enamel and kills certain bacteria that can cause cavities.

Merlot is the second-most popular wine in the world. It contains phenolics, which may help with preventing the formation of bad cholesterol. Merlot also contains probiotics that promote gut health, and contains melatonin, which in small doses may help to induce sleep.

Grenache, also known as cannonau, contains antioxidants linked to heart health. It is another wine suggested in the Blue Zones.

In the middle are rosé and orange/amber (no roses or oranges involved) wines. They are less concentrated with the rich antioxidents of red wines, but because they are both fermented with their grape skins (which gives them their color) they still contain health benefits, but in lesser quantities. Rosé is also lighter calories, 80 compared to 120 for a standard 5-ounce glass of wine.

Pinot grigio/gris contain elements that perform as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. This wines also appear to help support lung function better than red wine.

Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in the world, and various studies have shown that it may contribute to improved cholesterol levels.

Sauvignon blanc is the second-most popular wine. It offers lower amounts of sugar, and some research supports that its specific antioxidants may protect against mental decline.

Salud! To your health!

Reach Paula Bandy at pbthegrapevine@gmail.com and connect with her on Instagram at @pbthroughthegrapevine.